The King Range National Conservation Area, managed by the BLM, encompasses 35 miles of rugged beaches and 68,000 roadless acres of wilderness. The BLM warns visitors of ticks, poison oak, rattle snakes, bears, high water crossings, and rogue waves.
While many attempt to hike this stretch of coast during the dry summer months, it is fairly uncommon and often impassable during the winter.
One afternoon in February, with a winter storm approaching on the radar, my girlfriend and I set out to hike the Lost Coast with our three dogs. We arranged for Sherry of Lost Coast Shuttles to pick the five of us up at Shelter Cove and drop us off at Mattole Beach. This is the recommended route, since the wind is at your back as you hike South along the beach. Sherri provided a great service and gave us valuable information that would help us along the way.
We were dropped off at Mattole Beach and were now on our own. Our car was parked approximately 24 miles south of us and we had two and a half days to get there. It was time to start walking. Within a mile of hiking, we knew we were being followed. Sea lions had been swimming alongside us and watching our movements with an intense, playful curiosity.
The creek crossings were all manageable since it had been such a dry winter. It rained on and off during this portion of the hike and the winds were relatively strong, but we didn’t encounter anything close to what we had experienced the first night in the lighthouse. We quickly made it through the first impassable zone before the tide came up and continued on our way to Big Flat. We ended up hiking from sunrise to sunset and arrived at our destination exhausted. The dogs were wiped out too. We made another fire on the beach where we set up our tent and watched the sun set over the Pacific.
Before we knew it, it was time to do it all over again. Again, we had to be hiking at first light to make it past the next impassable zone. The impassable zones are not to be taken lightly. There are certain sections within these zones where one would likely not be able to climb out if one had to. We only saw two groups of hikers during the three days we were out there. One of the groups said they had just gotten caught in one of the impassable zones while the tide was still up and had to wait up in the rocks until the water receded. I didn’t get the impression that they had a good time. We paid close attention to our tide charts and didn’t take any chances. The scariest moment we had in the impassable zones was when, after walking for ten miles in a bit of a haze, I nearly stepped on an Elephant Seal and it roared at me.